7 Reasons Every 20-Something Should Take Advantage Of A Little Solitude

by Emma Reynolds

I am 21 and live alone in the biggest city in the world.

In a place like New York, it might seem easy to meet people, but truthfully, I’ve never felt lonelier than amidst this hustle and bustle.

I can count the number of people I know in the city on one hand. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve met some incredible people, but there’s something about coming home to an empty apartment every night that makes me feel so isolated.

I used to live with three other roommates; we'd constantly go out during the week, workout, grab a coffee and watch movies together. At home, I am one of four kids, with two parents and three dogs. I never had alone time. So naturally, when I moved to New York, I was hit immediately with withdrawal.

A week in, I questioned my move to the city. After the first two weeks went by, I felt shamed that I didn’t have constant company.

Wherever I went, other people I knew were surrounded by groups of people. Living alone and doing everything alone felt weird, and texting and FaceTiming didn’t fully satisfy my lonely void.

During a period of time, I would sit in bed at night, totally consumed with sadness. I rethought my decision to move to New York and created all kinds of justifications as to why I should move back home for the summer. Then, I realized that I couldn’t know where I belong because I didn’t even know myself.

The only thing more elusive than my future is the person I hope to become. Solitude is a beautiful thing.

Our obsession with connectivity through multiple apps and numerous devices is unhealthy. I consider myself to be an extremely social person, but why must we be connected to people at all times in order to feel happy?

In a world where FOMO rules so much of our lives and getting comments on our latest Instagram creates a bizarre sense of satisfaction, it’s hard to believe that taking time for yourself actually is a necessity.

My 20s have been the best years of my life, but also the most difficult and confusing. Whether you’re beginning college, ending college, finding a job, contemplating a move, leaving your family behind to start a new one or making any other life decision, it's far from easy.

You start college when you’re a teenager and by the time you’re done, you’re expected to know what you want to do with your life.

In the four years you spend making friends, meeting lovers and penciling in study time between Sunday Funday and Wine Wednesday, most of us don’t spend enough time alone, working to figure out who we are and where we want to be.

Here are seven lessons I have learned about why solitude is so important in your 20s:

1. Learn independence

Remove external factors in your life, including your significant other, friends, money, material possessions, pop culture, homes, cars, etc. What’s left? Your motivation, work ethic, intelligence, drive, capacity to love and yourself are what’s left.

These things help you to make better decisions. When the surface is stripped away, do you like what you see? If not, work to change. You can only make these discoveries when you carve out time to spend with no one but yourself.

2. Appreciate the important people in your life more

I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to live in a city and come from a family that tells me, “I love you” every night in our corny group text. But, since no text, call or video chat could replace the intimacy of spending real time with the people you love, it forces you to appreciate the time you do have together.

It forces you to focus less on how much your brother annoys you and more on how much fun you have together. Even my dogs, which shed on my workout clothes and chew on my favorite sandals, somehow turn from demon pet to cuddly puppy when I haven’t seen them in three months.

3. Rely less on material possessions and more on your motivation to make something of yourself

Nothing I have came from shopping obsessively with friends and skipping class for dollar beers on Monday afternoons. There is nothing better than learning the value of hard work on your own, without anyone telling you. I go to work early and come home to an empty apartment every night.

When I get home after a long day’s work, I think about how I can motivate myself to get to where I want to be instead of complain to my friends or family and go out for drinks.

Although there is nothing wrong with doing just that, I would never have achieved my strong sense of personal motivation without solitude.

4. What you want in a person without being with the person

We all are so influenced by the people with whom we surround ourselves, whether or not we acknowledge it. If you’ve never had distance from your significant other, take a step back from the relationship.

It is helpful to know how to cope on your own and know that you can survive and thrive. In your 20s, explore your options and introspect to identify what exactly you want in a partner. Sometimes, distance sparks the best reality checks.

5. Meet new people

When you have an established group of friends, it's rare to meet new people because you don’t really have to do so. I’ve met so many incredible “strangers” in the city while on the subway alone or walking to work alone.

6. Enjoy your own company

It is so easy to lose yourself without realizing it. I know what makes me laugh; I know what I enjoy; I know I can eat out by myself, walk around by myself, take public transportation by myself and generally entertain myself without external help from other people.

7. Experience new things and new perspectives

My family followed one political belief and one religion, strictly. Any conflicting ideas garnered snarky comments about my naïveté.

However, it’s great to form opinions. They come from a combination of the people you meet, the things you see and the experiences you have.

Through it all, you gain new perspectives. Being alone allows you to create a name for yourself without the influence of those close to you. Ultimately, being alone allows you to do you.

The biggest regret you could ever have would be waking up 10 years down the road and not knowing who you are.

Photo Courtesy: Tumblr